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Israel's Missed Opportunities

Submitted by Robin Messing on Sat, 01/03/2015 - 10:55am

Israel's hasbarists LOVE quoting Abba Eban who said the Palestinians "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity".  They jump on this quote and cling to it like a life raft from the Titanic to PROVE that no matter how miserable the Palestinians are, it's all THEIR fault.  The implication is that Israel has done EVERYTHING it can to deal fairly with the Palestinians and that they have searched every reasonable option to live in peace with them.  They really want to live in harmony with the Palestinians, but they have no choice but to continue the occupation indefinitely and grab more land, and ignore any possibility of even TRYING to reach a permanent settlement with them.  Lord knows, Israel has made reasonable offer after reasonable offer (according to the hasbarists), and the Palestinians have never reciprocated.  Therefore, the Palestinians  have no one to blame but themselves and they deserve their miserable fate.

It is certainly true that the Palestinians have missed many opportunities to reach a peace deal with Israel.  I wouldn't even THINK about arguing otherwise.  But even so, this is no excuse for grabbing more land and building more settlements that will make a two state agreement impossible in the future.  Even IF Palestinian inflexibility was the sole reason for failing to reach a peace deal in the past, this does not mean Palestinians will always reject reasonable deals in the future.  If Israel is REALLY interested in peace then it would stop building settlements and leave the land available for a deal when the Palestinians do become more reasonable.

But the basic premise that the Palestinians are the only ones who have missed opportunities for a deal appears to be faulty. Former President Shimon Peres stated last year that he and Mahmoud Abbas had come extremely close to reaching an agreement whereby the Palestinians would recognize Israel as a Jewish State.  They had reached understandings regarding the borders and right of return as well.  Unfortunately, Netanyahu changed his mind at the last minute and the deal went nowhere. When Peres went public with news of the deal that almost was, Netanyahu responded by practically calling him a liar.  You can decide for yourself who is more trustworthy, Netanyahu or Peres.  Personally, I have strong doubts about Netanyahu's integrity.

And now I just read another story of a possible missed opportunity.  Shlomi Eldar wrote a book in 2012 entitled "Getting to Know Hamas."  Here is what Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent, Elhanan Miller wrote yesterday in reference to that book:

In July 2007, Hamad, as director of Hamas's border crossings authority, overtly proposed direct ties with Israel in return for the opening of Gaza's gateways, promising to halt all rocket fire into Israel and all terror attacks. "Hamas's proposal was unprecedented," writes Eldar. Israel's prime minister Olmert and defense minister Ehud Barak, notes Eldar, wouldn't hear of it.    


I haven't read Eldar's book, but it seems likely that what was being offered was only a temporary truce.  This is from Haaretz's review of the book.

The document does not mention recognition of Israel or a peace agreement per se. It does, however, stipulate not only a cease-fire ("tahadiyeh" in Arabic, which literally means "lull" but has come to mean a "temporary truce"), but also cooperation on the civilian front, such as the opening of border crossings and a renewal by Israel of tax-money transfer to the Palestinians.

Refusing to explore this peace offer, temporary though it may be, was negligent. Of course, it could have been a trap to lull Israel into a false sense of security while Hamas armed itself with more and more missiles, though it is hard to believe that any significant military buildup would have gone unnoticed by Israel. But it could also have been a genuine opportunity that Israel missed because it was unwilling to explore what could be achieved through negotiations. 

At the very least, Israel should have asked Hamas how long they would be willing to stretch out a temporary truce. They should have asked if Hamas would be willing to extend a seven day truce. And if Hamas had said "yes", as they most assuredly would have, then Israel should have reminded them that verse 22:47 of the Quran states that a day for Allah is like a thousand human years. If they could live with a truce for 7 days, then would they be willing to live with a truce for 7,000 years? Certainly Allah will not be angered if Hamas agrees to a 7,000 year cease fire since such a short truce will not test His great patience.
Hamas can either say "yes" or "no" to this offer. If they said "no" then Israel would have lost nothing by making it, and it would have been in a better position to claim before the world that it had made a sincere effort to resolve its differences peacefully with Hamas. If Hamas had said "yes", then maybe...just maybe, Operations Cast Lead and Protective Edge could have been avoided.
And IF...IF a long lasting truce held for hundreds or thousands of years and IF...IF Israel treated Palestinians with a modicum of decency and respect there is a good chance the anonmosity between the two peoples would either significantly decrease or disappear altogether.